Advocates of Israel have always liked to joke that supporters of the BDS movement shouldn’t be selective about their efforts to convince the world to boycott the Jewish state. In particular, lately they have said that they are waiting to see what those who seek to isolate and destroy Israel will do if its scientists come up with a vaccine for the coronavirus. The answer shouldn’t provide any comfort for anyone, especially those who continue to believe that the Jewish state’s scientific advances and other contributions to the world will eventually somehow convince its enemies to give up their century-long war on Zionism.
This issue arose this week because the founder of the BDS movement has actually provided a response to the quips of those who have invited foes of Israel to extend their boycotts to the fruits of the advanced medical research and innovation produced by Israel.
In a video posted on Facebook by an anti-Israel group, BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti said this past weekend that if Israel finds a cure for cancer or for a virus, then there is no problem to cooperate with it.”
Barghouti, who fancies himself a humanitarian, went on to say that if Israel were to perform such services for humanity, “then saving lives is more important than anything else.”
The chutzpah and the hypocrisy contained in this statement are hard to fathom. Those who seek to stigmatize all Israelis as persons that decent societies should shun and who advocate boycotts not only of all Israeli products, but of its culture and academics ought to at least be consistent. Where do those who think that the world should treat Israelis—and their technology and ideas—as beyond the pale get the gall to say that there would be “no problem” in using them to avoid a deadly disease?
What Barghouti is basically saying is that Israel should continue its incredible creativity, and go on transforming medicine and technology for the betterment of humankind, while also consenting to the elimination of the one Jewish state on the planet.
Leftist cheerleaders and apologists for BDS often point to Barghouti’s efforts in creating the boycott movement as a sign of progress in Palestinian political culture. They say that simple boycotts dedicated to destroying Israel by economic means and social pressures aimed at isolating the Jewish state and silencing its supporters is praiseworthy in comparison to Palestinian support for terrorism. They believe that it’s much better for Palestinians to be working to end Israel’s existence by these allegedly non-violent means rather than employing suicide bombings, terror tunnels and stabbings.
To the extent that we should take such arguments seriously, as opposed to dismissing them as risible sophistry, it’s clear that Western intellectuals who advocate this point of view have nothing but contempt for Palestinian Arabs. The notion that the only choices before them are mass murder or a movement that uses economic and political pressure in an attempt to pursue the same illegitimate cause for which Palestinian terrorists shed blood is an appalling lie.
No movement based on the anti-Semitic notion that the Jews are the only people on earth who have no rights to their homeland or to self-defense can claim to support non-violence, let alone the banner of advocacy for human rights.
The BDS movement is drenched in anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery, and conducts itself on American college campuses and on the streets of Europe as a hate group. Wherever it raises its banners, acts of intimidation and often violence against Jews inevitably follow. The notion that its founder or any of those who support his ideas are really interested in humanitarian principles or saving lives is the real joke.
But there is an important lesson for Jews and supporters of Israel that transcends any outrage about Barghouti’s appalling hypocrisy.
There is a school of thought that has clung to the notion that if the world knew more about the brilliance of Israeli achievements in every field of human endeavor, including science and medicine, and literature and art, then it would finally understand just how misguided the efforts to destroy it truly are. Friends of Israel also much prefer to read good news about the Jewish state then to have to take dives into the arguments about the rights of Jews to their ancient homeland, and why its efforts of self-defense against terror are both justified and necessary.
The sad truth, however, is that if announcements of Israeli scientists producing a coronavirus cure and/or vaccine along with, were made tomorrow, it would change no minds in the BDS movement. Nor would there be any greater sympathy for Israel in international organizations that routinely devote much of their efforts to stigmatizing and libeling the Jewish state.
The issue for haters remains rooted in their conviction that the Jews have no right to a state, no matter where its borders are drawn. They don’t care how brilliant Israeli science has proven to be; nor do they care about how many lives can be saved with the “startup nation’s” technological innovations. As long as they believe the big lie that the only democracy in the Middle East is an “apartheid state,” it won’t matter which universal disease Israelis cure.
It’s little surprise that Barghouti thinks cooperating with Israel to save Palestinian lives is “no problem.” Despite the energy they put into trying to convince the world to believe their falsehoods about its conduct, they’re not really interested in what Israel does; they only care that Israel exists, and erasing that fact is their only focus.
Supporters of Israel are right to point to all of Israel’s magnificent achievements. Yet they need to discard the naive idea that its good deeds will ever convince anti-Semites to cease their hatred or their vile efforts to destroy the Jewish homeland.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate.